Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Top 20 Soul and RnB Tracks About Monkeys

My mate Dandy Dan from Boston monkeyin' around

There's a reason why you'll find 45s with every incarnation of a primate in the title. The Monkey was one of the most popular dances of the sixties. 1963 and 1964 was the heyday for this particular dance craze and a lot of Soul acts tried to come up with the next hit featuring our closest animal relative. I like them because they're funny, goofy and make you want to shake your big red butt and frolic all around the dance floor like you don't have a care in the world. You've run out of ways to come up with a twist on the dance? Why not do like Freddy King and pair up random animals and come up with the Donkey Monkey? If you want to read more about some far out dance crazes from the sixties, check out this post.

I decided to write this one when I realized how many “monkey” singles I had in my collection. A while back, I did a similar exercise with Soul tracks about the man's best friend, the dog. You can check out my list here. So here are my top 20 favourite tracks, in no particular order, about our vine swinging friends.

Monkey Mod by talented illustrator Kevin Cross

1) Mickey's Monkey – The Miracles – Motown

I couldn't think of a more proper way to start this list than with the first words spoken by Smokey Robinson at the beginning of this track: “Alright... Is everybody ready?” Written by Motown powerhouse trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland, it went up to #8 on Billboard's Top 100 in 1963. It should be part of any Mod DJ's arsenal.

When I want to surprise the more discerning Soul connoisseur, I whip out this obscure French Canadian version by the Tony Roman Cinq.

2) Monkey Time – Major Lance – Okeh

Monkey Time is Major Lance's first major hit. It climbed to #2 on Billboard's RnB chart and #8 on the Pop chart in 1963. It was penned by non other than his childhood friend Curtis Mayfield. It his now considered a classic in the Mod and Northern Soul scene.

3) Monkey Jerk - Dobie Gray - Charger

Speaking of Mod favourites, no one can deny Dobie Gray's impact on the scene. This 1965 number is the perfect mid-tempo track that combines two of the most popular dance crazes from the sixties, The Monkey and The Jerk.

4) Do The Monkey Tramp – Benny Westmore & His Private Numbers – Papa Bill

Do The Monkey Tramp is the most recent entry on our list. This 2012 screamer is the brainchild of my good friend and DJ partner Ben Shulman. It's the B-side to the brilliant RnB NewBreed track (I'm Gonna Live Till I'm) One Hundred Years Old. Initially, I was supposed to be the one singing on this one but Ben thought I didn't sound black enough. I'll give him that. I was fortunate enough to receive this test pressing as a gift. I can guarantee that this one will never be for sale. You can buy your own stock copy here.

5) The Boston Monkey - Richard Anthony & The Blue Notes – Swan

A few groups came out with their own version of The Boston Monkey but this one is by far the best and definitely one of the rarest. In fact, very little is known about the record. And get this, this promo copy is blank on the other, a first for me. A stock copy is known to exist with No Good as the B-side and said to be even harder to find. In 1966, Billy Butler, Alvin Cash, The Hustlers and Les Cooper & The Soul Rockers all came out with their own take on The Boston Monkey. The Manhattans have one of the best known and widely available singles but it doesn't even come close to this party igniter. To hear this one, you'll have to listen to the We Are The Mods podcast where I'll be featuring it on my new segment Vintage Vinyl From The Vault. You can download Episode 30 here from iTunes or Podomatic.

6) King Kong's Monkey – Gary (U.S.) Bonds – Legrand

Here's another example of a generally unknown 45. Gary (U.S.) Bonds is no stranger to many of us but this tracks seems to have slipped through our collective consciousness. If it doesn't get your blood pumping than you don't have pulse. Please consult a physician immediately. Believe me, you'll go bananas over this one! Hear exclusively on the We Are The Mods podcast.

7) Everybody's Going Ape – Jimmy Soul - S.P.Q.R.

Monkeys aren't the only primates that want their time under the spotlight, apes want some acknowledgement too! Well, except that this one is all about going ape over learning to dance the monkey. Better luck next time apes.

Now, if you find that this song sounds vaguely similar to King Kong's Monkey, there's a good reason for that. They're the same track! I guess that explains why I love them both so much. They were both produced by the same fella, Frank Guida in Norfolk, Virginia. Guida owned both Legrand and S.P.Q.R. Records.

8) The Gorilla – The Ideals – Cortland

Who said monkeys and apes should get all the fun? Gorilla are dancing machines too! The funky drum intro and the deep baritone voice of Sam Steward will grab within the first few seconds. It'll make you want to drag your knuckles all around the dance floor.

9) The Karate Monkey – Chubby Checker

I dismissed Chubby Checker for a long time for being just a one hit wonder for his success with The Twist. Plus he was simply doing a cover of a Hank Ballard's song. That was until I heard this up-tempo hand clapper. My apologies Mister Checker. You should get an honorary black belt for this one. Whenever I DJ this 45, I feel like heading for the nearest zoo and signing up for karate lessons. This is a typical DJ Parka Pat track. It's fast-paced, has plenty of hand clapping and has a funky drum break in the middle. I have to give credit to my mate DJ Eric “Boom Boom” Boulanger for turning me on to this one.

10) Monkey See Monkey Do – The Five Du-tones - One-derful

Best known for their hit single Shake a Tail Feather, the Five Du-tones came out with this mid-tempo swinger in 1963. It's actually the B-side to a track called The Gouster.

11) Monkey Man – Baby Huey & The Babysitters - Satellite

The first thing that comes to mind when I see the words “Monkey Man” is the Toots & The Maytals ska classic and the driving cover by The Specials we all heard a million times. Well, there's also this one. And it shouldn't be overlooked because it's amazing! There's nothing infantile about this Baby Huey & The Babysitters track. There's plenty of howling, hooting and screaming going on though!

12) Monkey Yeah – Gene Ray – Class

What can I tell you about this rare record? Not much besides the fact that it came out in 1964 and was Gene Ray's only single on the Class record label. This mid-tempo RnB tinged Soul as the Mod stamp all over it. I give it two prehensile thumbs up! To hear it, you'll have to tune in to We Are The Mods because you won't find it on YouTube!

13) Monkey Shiner – Tall Paul & The Thunderbirds - Twilight

I couldn't help myself. I had to include a garage tune in here somewhere. Not because it's incredibly rare and unknown but because it's raw, dirty and has a nice soulful sax solo in the middle. If you know anything about this record, please let us know.

14) Hey Monkey – Mac Davis – Vee Jay

Following the Garage RnB route, this 1964 single sounds like it was recorded at house party. It's the perfect recipe to get things moving. Mac Davis is most famous for writing one of my favourite Elvis songs A Little Less Conversation.

15) Monkey All Over – Richard Parker – Philips

This song reminds me of The Beatles' Twist & Shout with a crescendo of Ah's steadily rising at the beginning. The good news is that you won't have to brake the piggy bank in order to add it to your collection.

16) Stop Monkeyin' Aroun' – The Dovells – Parkway

If you're in the mood for more of a commercial, Pop / Doo Wop feel than this should be right up your alley. Came out in 1963.

17) Monkey – J.C. Davis – Chess

I think the title says it all. A great instrumental with sounds of monkeys, a cool organ track and sax aplenty.

18) The Monkey – Shep and The Limelites – Hull

You'll have to let backbone slip to enjoy this one. This nice little dancer came out in 1963 on the the small New York label Hull. Don't know how to dance the Monkey? Have no worries. Just follow the instructions in the song and you'll get the hang of it in no time. And don't forget to shake, shake, shake!

19) Monkey Tonight - Eddie Kirk – King

For this entry, I decided to go with a record on my want list. It was simply too hard to ignore this RnB masterpiece. There's something about Eddie Kirk's voice that is so honest, raw, real and true. Judge for yourself.

20) Mom Won't You Teach Me How To Monkey - Little Emmett Sutton - Federal

In the same vain as as Little Steevie Wonder and Little Carlton, Little Emmett does an amazing job at making us want to learn the mooves. Come to think about it, let me grab my phone and call my mom.

If you feel like there's a song that sliped through the cracks and that you think should be on the list, by all means let us know. If you want to hear most of them and need a soundtrack to kickstart a party, than head over to my the Parka Avenue Podcast right here on Mixcloud. For the exclusive, unkown gems, tune in to Episode 30 of We Are The Mods for Vintage Vinyl From The Vault. 


  1. Nice post mate. I personally think that those 'dance-craze' records really are ridiculous, but there's certainly a few stomping diamonds to be found.

  2. Great list! Check out "Do the Monkey with James" by Perry & The Harmonics. It demonstrates how James Bond does the monkey.
    Albert Jones' "Monkey Boogaloo" is absolutely ridiculous but awesome. It's a light but fun groove with crazy ape sounds.
    Also there's a wonderful 60's Cambodian addition by Pan Ron called "Sva Rom Monkee" It was a huge hit there. I think she "disappeared" sadly during some of the mass killings in the 70s.

    1. Wow! Don't know these tracks. They sound like they're right up my alley. I'll check them out. Thanks!